Mobile SEO: The Best Practices

Mobile SEO: The Best Practices

A recent report from Nielsen revealed that 50% of mobile phones users in the United States are using smartphones, and those who are buying a new phone are more likely to choose a smartphone.

This is driving the growth of Americans who are using high-speed mobile broadband. According to Informa KPCB in May 2012, some 208 million Americans had access to 3G in the fourth quarter of 2011, and that is just a tiny fraction of the 1.1 billion who access the Internet on their mobile phones worldwide.

In fact, Forrester Research revealed that in the United States alone, 22% use their mobile phones to access the Internet regularly.

What all of these numbers tell us is that mobile Internet and people accessing the Internet through their mobile devices is on the upswing.  The mobile Web is fast becoming very much like its desktop counterpart, so why are you not optimizing your mobile sites for search?

1. Use a Responsive Web Design.  In the earlier days of mobile sites, there was always a question of whether it would be wiser to have an entirely different site at mobile.domain.com or have your page detect what a visitor is using to access it and serve the right page.  Due to Google’s crackdown on duplicate content and because it would entail too much work to create two different versions of the same page, it would be better to tweak your stylesheets so that the correct version would be shown.  For example, if the visitor is using an iPhone, he or she will get the mobile version of your page, but if the same user is accessing your site on a desktop computer, then it is the regular version he or she sees.

Duane Forrester at Bing simplifies everything: One URL for the same content item.  This means that you should not have mobile.domain.com/page1.html, and then domain.com/page1.html.  Instead, be sure to have your pages detect the client’s browser so that the page is optimized to display perfectly, no matter what device is used.

2. Return to single word keywords.  For a long time, we have been told that long tail is good.  The longer your keyword is, the better it is for your conversion and the easier it would be to rank on that keyword.  On mobile, however, search queries are short, with more than half of search queries having only one or two words.  Only 19% have three words.  This is intuitive because most people really do not like tapping on a small smartphone keyboard.

To get keyword suggestions for your mobile sites, you can use the Google Adwords Tool.

Click on Advance Options and Filter and then click on the dropdown box next to Show Ideas and Statistics for.

3. Use Switchboard tags.  If you have an old mobile site that uses a mobile URL, then you should definitely use a new set of tags that were released to address this mobile URL.  Switchboard tags make it simple for you to ensure that both your mobile sites are properly indexed and have the appropriate link equity, while also displaying properly.

4. Never use robots.txt to block search spiders from crawling your mobile site. With the emphasis on responsive designs, there is no reason why you should block mobile sites using robots.txt.

By blocking search spiders from crawling over your mobile site, you are preventing it from indexing your mobile pages that could possibly show up in some mobile and desktop searches.  Google itself has already said that you should make use of the robots.txt and enable it to allow both Googlebot Mobile and Googlebot crawler to go through it.

5. Always focus on user experience. With Web sites, Google has been telling Webmasters that should focus on getting quality content on their sites.  That focus on content was further emphasized with the Panda and Penguin updates that penalized sites that tried to cheat Google for a higher ranking.  That same emphasis is now being given user experience for mobile sites. Google’s Matt Cutts had been repeating this over and again: do not forget about the user experience for mobile sites.  What this means is that your page should display perfectly on a mobile device.  Visitors should not have to scroll across your site too much.  Text input should be kept at minimum.

Navigation should be easy to follow and intuitive. Load times should be fast and file sizes should be small.  In effect, Google is saying that before you do anything else to rank higher on their mobile search engine, you should do some housekeeping for your site to make sure that it is intuitive to use, read and view.